Kansas Religious Right Leader Shuts Down Controversial For-Profits

An aspiring Religious Right leader in Kansas has shuttered two controversial for-profit companies in the wake of complaints of financial improprieties.

Jerry Johnston, founder of First Family Church, dissolved two companies that promote and sell his books and other materials as well as purchase television airtime for his ministry.

Johnston ran the first business, called Jerry Johnston Publications, while his son, Jeremy, ran J Cubed Media. Both companies were investigated by The Kansas City Star last year. The newspaper found that hundreds of members left the church over complaints of financial irregularities.

In the wake of the stories, the Kansas attorney general’s office began looking into the matter, and the investigation is ongoing.

Former ministry employees have asserted that Jerry Johnston and his wife used church funds inappropriately.

“They didn’t know the difference between ministry money and their money,” Kim Barr, a former office manager, told the Star. “They thought whatever was coming into that place was for them to use at their discretion.”

Zoe Raymonde, an accountant at the ministry in the 1990s, told the newspaper that she resigned from her job after Johnston pressured her to sign over checks for his personal use. Raymonde said there was not adequate documentation about how ministry funds were spent.

Internal Revenue Service regulations forbid the leaders of non-profit groups to use those entities for personal gain. Johnston is also accused of engaging in fraudulent fund-raising practices.